"Whole team was off today. Not sure how you can put it on one guy," coach John Fox after his team remained winless on the road. "We weren’t as consistent as we were (in a win two weeks ago against Minnesota). I didn’t see it coming. I thought we had a great week of preparation."
Cutler threw a 50-yard TD pass to Cameron Meredith on the final play of the first half. He finished 16 of 30 for 182 yards, and rookie Jordan Howard rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries.
The Bears, however, weren’t anywhere near good enough to overcome their mistakes.
Cutler’s first interception was returned for a touchdown, and his second-quarter fumble cost Chicago an opportunity to kick a short field goal that would have trimmed its deficit to 7-6. The quarterback’s other fumble resulted in a safety, and Howard’s second-quarter fumble set up Winston’s TD pass to Cameron Brate.
"Any given week, you can win, you can lose. It depends on how you execute," Cutler said. "Obviously, we didn’t get the job done today."
A couple more things to know about Bears-Buccaneers:
Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter had a bandage above his right eye during his postgame news conference, the result of a head butt from Chris Conte following his interception return for a touchdown.
"Chris Conte acts like he’s never scored a touchdown before," Koetter said with a smile. "When you come off after a score, it’s OK to head butt guys that have helmets on. He head-butted me in the head. Almost broke my glasses, my hat was off. But it feels good now."
The Bears offense ventured into Tampa Bay territory on four of its first five possessions, yet only managed a field goal.
"We’ll go back to the drawing board," Fox said. "We’ve got to get better."
Deep in their own territory and down two touchdowns after turning the ball over four times, the Bears weren’t content with merely running out the final 31 seconds of the opening half. They used timeouts after Jeremy Langford’s 13-yard run and Cutler’s 4-yard completion to the reserve running back, and then set themselves up for a final play when Ka’Deem Carey scampered 16 yards to midfield on a reception before getting out of bounds. Cutler heaved his 50-yard TD pass to Meredith in the back of the end zone to finish a four-play, 83-yard drive.
Winston’s second-quarter TD pass to Brate was the 40th of the second-year pro’s career. At 22 years, 312 days old, he is the youngest quarterback in NFL history to reach that plateau, doing it in 25 games. He’s on pace to top 4,000 yards passing for the second straight year, and he has thrown for 19 TDs versus 10 interceptions this season.
Winston often is at his best when improvising. A prime example was a third-and-10 play from the Tampa Bay 23 that saw him scramble all the way back into his own end zone before heaving a 39-yard completion to Mike Evans. The first overall pick from the 2015 draft threw a 43-yard TD pass to Freddie Martino for a 24-10 lead on the next play.
Koetter noted one of Winston’s strongest attributes is he almost never gives up on a play.
"That’s a two-way street. That helps us sometimes. It hurts us other times," the coach said. "You’ve got to love that kid, the way he battles. There’s just something about him."